Saturday, December 11, 2010


Opera Atelier at St. Lawrence Hall

    Micka had a dream last night. In her dream she saw her son that went missing 21 years ago. The policeman brought her son home. But her son was handcuffed and was restrained by a ball and chain. The son she had missed so much and prayed for for so many years was dragging the ball. Her boy was in rags. His hair was disheveled and he had no teeth.
    Micka’s neighbour, Tom, was with her when her son was brought in. Another man was there, too. The man ran into the apartment to search her son’s room.
    Micka woke up covered in cold sweat.
    Micka does not know that her daughter found the first trace of her son five days ago. She does not even know about her daughter’s search for her brother. Micka is an old woman and her daughter wants to protect her from the bad news.
    Micka reaches for the rosary that her daughter got when she was getting married at an old Vatican church many years ago. The rosary is very precious to Micka. She prays for her children twice a day. Both children are in the Land of Plenty. Micka lives alone. She is very old and very sick. Tom checks on her every day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Central Island, Toronto

    ‘He can sleep on the couch. He sleeps like a dog. But before he sleeps on my couch he will have to take a shower.’
    There is no hot water in the house where he lives now and Sonny does not like to take a shower, anyway.
    For two months Sonny has been living in a house with no permanent roof on it. The temporary roof can be easily lifted and somebody might enter the house. The owner went for a long vacation to a tropical country. He always stays in his apartment in a big city and does not even live in this house. Sonny is alone there. He watches the house and he takes care of the owner’s cat. The cat jumps into Sonny’s bed at night. Sonny is hugging the cat as they fall asleep together. This way both of them are warmer in wintertime in the house with no permanent roof.
    The winter that started earlier than usual this year is very severe. It snows, it is very windy and it is freezing cold. Sonny has an electric heater in his room, but the kitchen and the bathroom that he is allowed to use are very cold. Sonny turns on the gas stove and he turns on the oven to get warm. It is freezing cold and Sonny is an old man.
    Sonny lives in the richest city of the Land of Plenty. As he is falling asleep, he sings the cat a song—the song that his father, a lawyer in a Faraway Country, used to sing to Sonny when he was rocking him to sleep.

    Que sera, sera,
    Whatever will be, will be
    The future’s not ours, to see
    Que sera, sera   
    What will be, will be.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Little Goat

Ballet Raices de Colombia, Harbourfront, Toronto

    Stan was eleven when his father died. Some people believed his father had died in an accident. Some people were convinced he had been killed by those who had borrowed money from him.
    Stan’s mother, who had had a good life with her professionally successful husband, suddenly found herself penniless and homeless.  Her beloved Stan was not her only child. He had an older brother and an older sister.
    The widow was offered a job as a cleaner. She rented a small room in somebody's house and she bought a goat to have a supply of milk for the children. When his mother was at work from dawn till sunset, Stan felt very lonely. It was then when he befriended the goat. He talked to her. He sang songs to her. He fed her. The goat followed him everywhere and she became his father, his mother and his best friend.
    Over thirty years later, when Stan had his first child, a tiny little girl, slightly bigger than the palm of his hand, he named her after the goat. Every day he would marvel at the little girl's cheerfulness. She brightened his days. She loved listening to the stories about Stan's little goat. She loved Stan to read her a bedtime story about a goat that became a world traveler.
    One day, when she grew up, she bought a pair of red pants, similar to those the goat in the bedtime book wore, and she headed for the world. She never saw Stan again.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Ballet Raices de Colombia, Harbourfront, Toronto

    At fourteen, Delbar became the second wife of a man whose first wife could not have children. They lived together in the same house. The women became best friends.  
    When two boys were born to Delbar, the first wife became like a mother to them. It was her who would wake up in the middle of the night to hug, kiss and comfort the crying baby.
    Ten years later when the husband suddenly died, the two wives became like sisters. They continued living together. No man would marry the young widow whose children were old enough to remember their father because they might cause the new husband trouble.
    Delbar had to go work to support the family. The first wife stayed at home to take care of the children. The children adored her. They called her "mother." They never called Delbar "mother."
    Delbar is very happy.

The Taboo

Ballet Raices de Colombia, Harbourfront, Toronto

    He is a rich land owner. Over one hundred farm labourers work for him and he has over a hundred children by ten wives. When his new baby turns one, he brands the baby with the same hot iron that he uses to brand his goats. When the baby is crying, he makes sure the branding has been done well. He examines the right hand and smiles.
    The rich man is a drunk. Every evening he goes to a bar. He meets women there. He always looks at the woman’s right hand and examines it closely as he does not want to have sex with one of his daughters.

A Bird-Fancier

Chiapas, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, 2007

    I was a bird-fancier when I was six or seven. I would hunt birds in two ways. In the summer I would use a sling. In the winter, I would dig a hole in the ground and put a little basket in it. I would cover the basket with a thread and put some bread crusts in it.
    Like the other children in the village, I did not have any toys. I would put the bird I caught in a little cage that I had made myself. The bird was not happy but I was. I had a toy to play with. After some time, I would free the bird and catch a new one to put it in the cage. I wanted a new toy.
    Summer was different. Summer was a time of competition. We had slings and we knew how to use them. I wanted to be respected as I was the youngest, the shortest, and I was a girl. I became the best slinger. I would always win. All my shots hit their mark. I was very proud of myself.
    I did not understand the difference between life and death then.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Tarantula

Central Island, Toronto

    The soldiers are laughing heartedly as all young men do. They are afraid of me. Tarantulas are not their best friends in the sand of the Sahara Desert. Although so tiny, I am very powerful and the soldiers know that very well.
     Playfully they spill gasoline all around me and set it on fire. I am choking on the smoke of the burning gasoline. The fire feels hotter than midday sunshine. I walk around the circle. I walk around the circle again. I walk around the circle for the third time. There is no way out.
    I am the Power. I have always been divine. I have always been a warrior. I turn my weapon against myself.
    The soldiers stop laughing. They freeze watching my suicide.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Kidney

San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, December 29, 2007

    ‘It is a small nation I come from. We used to be part of a big empire. Tyranny was all we knew.
    My mother was young when she got sick and needed a kidney transplant. I was a teenager then. I was horrified I would lose her. I developed a plan how I could help her.
    I went to the marketplace in a big city and I looked for an idle man who would be willing to sell his kidney. I played with some piglets that a farmer was selling from his horse-drawn cart. A man came and bought them. He put them in a burlap sack and tied it up with a string. The piglets were moving vigorously. I played with them through the fabric of the sack. My hair was blond. My hair was long. My eyes were blue. The man agreed to become a donor but he wanted something more than money. He made me promise that I would marry him after the transplant surgery. I agreed to marry him when my mother feels good enough to dance at our wedding.
    My family and the donor went across the border together. Things went well. My mother was feeling well. The donor was also feeling well. Soon he returned to our tiny country. My family headed off for the world.
    Many years have passed but the man keeps calling our home from his tiny village of seventy houses. My mother cannot understand why I do not want to talk to the man who saved her life.’

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Ballet Raices de Colombia. Harbourfront, Toronto

    ‘The old times were poor times. That was when I was a child and we lived in a small village far in the north of the country. Our house was made of clay and its roof was covered with straw. Our beds were also made of clay. We had fireplaces under the beds to keep us warm at night. We used sticks for the fire and they were very precious as the temperature at night would fall below -20 degrees Celsius. In order not to freeze we had to keep the fire all night.
    There were also four wells in our village. The water was very sweet then. Never have I drunk water as tasty as the water in my village.
    Nowadays, the water in my village is not sweet any more. It tastes bitter. Maybe the source is drying up? Maybe the people are getting rich?
    Recently, the villagers have built houses that are made of brick and tiles. The villagers have cars and telephones. The rats became very big and the flies are very fat. The people are rich now.’

Monday, November 29, 2010


Tamil demonstration, Yonge Street, Toronto, 2009

    ‘I was a Tiger. Why I joined the insurgents? Are you sure you want to know that? Did you see a human brain? I did. My next door neighbour was wounded in a military raid on our village. The top of his head got blown off.  I could see his brain. I took off my shirt and I covered his brain with it. What happened to my neighbour? He died.
    One day another man in our village was shot by government soldiers. He was wounded in the abdomen. His intestines were coming out. I was trying to put them back into his belly but I could not. That man also died.
    I was very young then. I wanted to protect my people so I joined the Tigers. Although I was with them for three years, I did not kill any soldiers as at that time they did not attack our land. If they had attacked us, I would have killed many of them. I know how to use fifteen kinds of weapons.’

    Aththan is drawing an accurate picture of a hand gun and instructs two other young men how to use it. One of the men shows me a photograph on the front page of a newspaper. I do not recognize what is in the picture. ‘Opium,’ he says. He knows its price.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Song

Ballet Raices de Colombia. Harbourfront. Toronto

    The boys get up very early in the morning. The weather is beautiful. The birds are singing. The boys are hungry. It is the time of famine. There is no rice to eat. The boys are best friends. They have no brothers and they have no sisters, but they have each other. For a long time there has been nothing to eat in the village of one hundred houses. The village is located in a green valley in the mountains. People are very poor there.
     The boys head for the mountain. Today is the day. The sky is so clear. They climb the mountain as they did so many times before. The stones are hurting their feet.  They want to see the island. They want to see the island of plenty. The island, where there is a lot of food to eat and toys to play with. Both boys are dreamers. They want to cross the ocean and live on the island. They are very bright and very strong.
    One day the younger one leaves the village and heads for the island. A year passes and the older one follows him.
    The sky is clear. The air is crisp. The birds are singing.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Chiapas, Zapatista villge of Oventic, 2007

    ‘Our people are good people. Our people are very innocent.  Our people are trusting.
     During the jihad, some Arabs came to our country to fight the Russians. We were very grateful to them and we treated them like our brothers.
    One day two Arabs came to our village and asked for the permission to marry our two girls. They presented themselves as good Muslims promising to take their teenaged wives with them to their home countries. We had faith in them so we gave them our girls. They married them and we all danced at their wedding.
    After a few months they left our village for their country abandoning their young wives pregnant and penniless.
    A year later another Arab came to our village. He went to another family asking for the permission to marry their daughter. He was asked to wait for the decision when the father of the family went to see the chief of the village. The chief invited the Arab to his home and asked him if it was true that he wanted to marry the girl from their village. The man said it was. At that moment the chief  had the man tied up. His tongue was pulled out and cut off. The man was hanged by his legs with his head down. His tongue was dangling on a string next to him so that he could look at it.’
    Abdul is laughing at the love story he has just told.  Today it is Valentine’s Day.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Black Sheep

Ballet Raices de Colombia, Harbourfront, Toronto

    Fatima’s hair is black. Her eyes are sparkling with joy. She is seven and she is already a little shepherdess. In her village everybody has to work. Little children  have an important job to do as well. Fatima’s job is very important. She tends to twenty sheep.  They are beautiful. Some of them are white, some are grayish white, and two of them are pinch black. The black sheep are twins. They are the little lambs that the shepherdess likes most. She likes playing with them. She is a child and they are children. They keep her company all the time. The tiny little girl loves the blue sky, the wind and the green grass.
     Suddenly, one of the black lambs runs towards the river. She jumps into it and starts swimming. The little black lamb enjoys swimming very much. She has just found her new freedom and the water is carrying her. The little black lamb is further and further away. Finally, she lands safely on the other bank of the river.
    Her twin sister looks scared. She does not know what to do. She is very frightened and confused. She wants to be with her sister. She loves her. They have been inseparable since they were born. They have never been apart but the river is wide and the water is deep. The little black lamb jumps into the water.  She finds out that she can swim like her twin sister. She enjoys swimming as her sister did, and she continues swimming. The current takes her safely to the other bank of the river, to her sister. The two black sheep are united.       
    Fatima, the little shepherdess, can see only two little black heads in the high grass.  The heads are very close to each other.
    The farmers will have to walk five kilometers to the nearest bridge to bring the lost sheep back. They will not dare to jump into the river. The current has taken many lives in the village.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Egyptian demonstration, Dundas Square, Toronto, 2011

    'I am Tobias. I come straight from the pages of the Bible. I am not afraid of dying. The last time I was afraid was when I was in a cave in the Sahara desert. The human smuggler noticed the light of a cell phone in the hand of one of us. We were fifteen men hoping to cross the border. Although we had already paid our fee, the smuggler wanted the phone. The owner hid it. As a punishment, we were abandoned in the cave. We had no water. We had no food. We fought over an unwashed plate; the winner got  to lick it clean. We wrote love messages to our families on the wall of the cave. We wanted our loved ones to know we were thinking about them when we were dying. The smuggler came back after three days. Later, in Israel, I was very happy when I worked sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. I felt God was with me.'
    Tobias crosses himself with his left hand three times.